In my quest to find the perfect amplifier with a built in DAC I discovered the Leema Elements. As well as having a DAC (digital to analogue converter), this product also ticks the box of being a quality British hi-manufacturer too. Read on for the Dynamic Headroom Leema Elements integrated amplifier review.
Leema Acoustics – a bit of history
Two ex-BBC engineers, Lee Taylor and Mallory Nicholls, established Leema in 1988 (“Leema is a conjuctive of Lee and Mallory”). Initially, the focus of the company was to create a small speaker that would outperform other larger designs. This was because Taylor and Nicholls were frustrated with other products on the market. From this came the Leema Xen monitor speaker which was widely used by professional sound engineers.
Following the Xen, came high-end hi-fi electronics in the shape of the Tucana integrated amplifier and Antila CD player. These established Leema as one of the bright stars of British hi-fi. Leema went on to produce several ranges of hi-fi products from entry level to reference level. The Elements range is part of the former.
Leema Elements integrated amplifier lowdown
The Leema Elements integrated amplifier is a half-width “shoe box” sized device with similar proportions to Cyrus products. It feels sturdy and heavy in my hands and so adds to the feeling of quality. Best described as functional, the facia is not pretty by the standards of other hi-fi components. The blue LED display looks nice but I find some of the buttons on the front feel a bit cheap – not what you would expect at the price.
This compact amplifier has:
- 1 balanced analogue input
- 3x unbalanced analogue inputs
- 3x Toslink optical digital inputs
- 1x Coax RCA digital input
- 1x USB input
- A pre-out (to connect to a power amplifier)
- Headphone socket (front)
- A 3.5mm jack input are on the front to connect up a phone or tablet.
- 1 pair of speaker connectors
As you can see from the pictures, the rear of the unit is very busy!
The Elements puts out a respectable 56W into 8 ohms, 110W into 4 ohms and 160W into 2 ohms – proof that it has plenty of current on offer. This “little” amplifier will drive the vast majority of speakers with ease! The Elements has a home cinema bypass mode which means that it can be integrated into a surround system easily.
The rest of the Elements range comprises the Elements CD player, Elements DAC, Elements power amplifier, Elements preamplifier and finally the Elements phono stage.
Listening to the Leema Elements amplifier
I hooked up the Leema Elements to my Kef LS50 and sat down for a listen. The LS50 are a notoriously difficult speaker to drive and I was curious how the Elements would handle them. Happily the Leema drove the LS50s very nicely indeed with a well controlled and extended bass (to the limit of what the LS50 can do anyway). What I had here was a compact, feature-rich and great sound hi-fi system.
The sound of the Leema Elements integrated amplifier could be described as being on the warmer side of neutral. I found the treble to be ever-so-slightly rolled off compared to other amplifiers I had around. Midrange and bass performance was good because I could hear a smooth, rich sound.
There is not as much detail in the sound coming from the Leema as what I like due to the reduced amount of treble. This isn’t a huge problem, but once noticed, it bothered me a little. I suspect that the Leema would be better paired with brighter speakers than the Kef LS50, perhaps something from Monitor Audio, as this would help to counteract the presentation of the Leema. Of course, a lot of this is down to personal preference so please demo if you can. Perhaps some different cables too?
Across each of the inputs, be they digital or analogue, the Leema Elements performs very well. This amplifier could become the heart of a beautiful modern system. Considering how good the Elements is, I do wonder why other hi-fi boxes need to be twice the size. You get a lot of features in a small box and have the option to expand or upgrade by combining with other Leema Elements products. This gets the thumbs up from Dynamic Headroom.